Garden ideas for small spaces

Running along my driveway is a thin strip of grass, just three feet wide. With full sun, grass and weeds grow quickly, and because the space is so narrow and blocked by my neighbor’s fence, it’s miserable to mow. So two years ago I lined a row of raised beds along it and turned the mundane plot into a lush garden where this year I’m growing tomatoes, eggplants, chard chard, green beans and cucumbers.

Vegetable gardens are sturdy things and don’t need as much space as even what I salvaged. Steps, a porch, a balcony, a terrace, a roof terrace or even a window sill will do the trick. With a few containers, good soil, and plenty of sunlight, a garden can grow almost anywhere.

“You can make it small, small, small,” said Jessica Walliser, founder of and author of “Container Gardening Complete: Creative Projects for Growing Vegetables and Flowers in Small Spaces.” “It’s one of the most amazing things about the modern vegetable garden.”

With summer fast approaching, now is the time to try your green thumb on a small scale. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Ideally, you want to find a location that receives six to eight hours of sunlight per day. You can grow in shady places, but the options will be limited. Leafy greens, grasses, and some flower varieties, such as impatiens and begonias, do well in shade. But if you want to grow a variety of flowers or edibles like tomatoes, cucumbers, or strawberries, you’ll need sun, and lots of sun. (Morning light will be kinder to your crop than warm afternoon light, so keep that in mind as well.)

If you plan to garden on a rooftop or balcony, consider the weight capacity. A dozen 12-inch containers filled with potting soil and water can add considerable pressure to a space that might not be designed to support the load. So check before planting. Also, keep aisles open – an emergency exit may look like a balcony, but it isn’t and should be clear of obstructions. Avoid gardening there. Also think about how you use your outdoor space and how much you want to spend on containers.

“What are your plans for space?” said Jibreel Cooper, community program manager at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “If you want to keep it generally open, you might want to look into the hanging plants or the trellis. Sweet peas and cucumbers can be trained and grown vertically. They take up less space. »

If you don’t have a big enough yard, don’t be discouraged – a planter box is a great place to grow herbs. Kris Bordessa, the author of “Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living,” once lined his driveway with large fabric planters, reclaiming the hot asphalt slab. “It was an instant garden,” she said.

If a neighbor has unused outdoor space, consider asking if they would let you cultivate it in exchange for a share of the harvest. (Full disclosure, my little driveway plot is on property that actually belongs to my neighbor, whom I pay in tomatoes for the privilege of using the otherwise fallow land.)

“It’s as easy as saying hello,” said Nina Browne, community grounds manager for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “You can start having conversations about working together.”

Gardening is a time-consuming hobby. You have to water, weed and fertilize. During the heat of summer you may need to water daily, sometimes twice. Plant enough containers, and it could quickly become a big lift. So start small, with just a container or two the first year, and reevaluate the following season.

“Don’t bite too much,” Ms Browne said. “There’s nothing that will put you off gardening more than having something completely collapse on you.”

Once you know where you are growing, get some containers, aiming for a six to 12 inch deep pot. Many types of vessels will do, as long as they have drainage holes in the bottom. (And if they don’t, punch a few.)

Bordessa, who offers a video course on container gardening, suggests scouring your home for items you already have, like empty cat litter containers. “A five-gallon bucket is enough for a lot of things you’ll be growing,” she said.

If your floor space is limited, look up. “Vertical growing is your friend,” said Cassie Johnston, a master gardener who runs the Growfully Instagram account. With a trellis, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers can grow vertically up a wall. Consider hanging baskets hung from a railing. Another option: plant your crop in a tower garden, which is basically containers stacked on top of each other. Or, make the most of a wall by affixing pocket planters to it.

Fill your containers with a mix of good quality potting soil and compost. But first, check with your local municipality if and how you can get this compost for free.

Look for plant varieties designed for small spaces, such as bush varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. “Breeders have put a lot of effort into breeding dwarf varieties,” Walliser said, pointing to micro-dwarf tomato varieties like Tiny Tim and Red Robin, which have high yields despite their small stature. Tumbling Tom tomatoes, as their name suggests, cascade over a hanging basket.

Also organize your culture by planting together elements with similar needs. “Don’t put lavender in the same pot as a begonia,” Ms Browne said. “We need lots of sun and drier conditions, and we like wet and shady conditions.”

Water your plants thoroughly, opting for long, deep soaks a few times a week rather than light watering daily. “People are very good at the splash and dash method,” Ms. Walliser said. “It’s not watering. The sprinkler stands there and pours enough water so that at least 20% of the water you pour at the top comes out of the hole at the bottom.

With your garden properly planted and watered, all you have to do is enjoy your little harvest.

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